How Tarot Cards Play Out in the Real World

If you’re new to the cards and haven’t built up much experience yet with readings, it can be a bit difficult to see how they relate to actual happenings in the real world. At least in terms of how I taught myself tarot, the images on the cards and the stories they could create when placed together all seemed theoretical and impersonal until I had years of real-world experience to relate to each and every one of them.

In an attempt to add a bit to the overall knowledge base regarding how readings play out in the real world, every once in a while I’d like to let you have a peek into my own personal tarot journal. The internet didn’t exist when I started teaching myself tarot, and I would have really liked to have been able to get a look at how experienced readers interpreted the cards and applied them to actual practical situations.

So, in the spirit of learning, I’ll let you in on one of my most recent practical uses of tarot for myself.

As you may or may not know, I am a single, divorced, working mother of three elementary-school-aged children (9, 7, 7). Needless to say, my romantic life has been stalled to non-existent for quite some time. Now, however, I feel happy and serene as a single person and I’m no longer looking for someone to fill up a void in my heart or emotional life.

Some girlfriends encouraged me to try online dating. So I put up a profile and started chatting with some men. One of them was really funny and attractive. We made plans to meet for a coffee. And then it occurred to me (I’m an American living in Italy, btw) – I had forgotten to ask if he was married or had a girlfriend.

Although I certainly don’t want to generalize, in my own personal experience in Italy, I’ve learned that men often don’t have any qualms about taking a lover on the side in addition to their steady girlfriend or wife. While I don’t pass judgement on their choices, I don’t want to be anyone’s other woman. 

Here’s where the reading comes in.

When it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked him, I figured I might as well perform due diligence. So I asked him outright in a message if he had a girlfriend, wife, lover, or was otherwise engaged with a significant other.

His immediate response was a flippant joke, which struck me as a way to deflect and avoid. 

That was suspicious to me, and no answer was forthcoming, so I turned to the cards. Situations like this, when you have a “hunch” but there’s an information gap, are excellent practice readings for learners. When and if you get more real-world information, you can compare it to the information you obtained from the cards and your interpretation of their message for you. The more you make these comparisons, the more your confidence and knowledge will grow.

I drew three cards: 1) What I need to know about Marco; 2) Advice/guidance for me re: Marco; 3) Outlook.

Here’s what came up:


Three of Wands, Death, Seven of Swords

[Practice exercise: If you had to simply make a sentence out of this string, keeping it in context with the questions posed, what would it say?]

Here’s verbatim what I wrote in my journal:

“Oh, see – now that’s a real shame. I had this feeling smth was going on – like he’s not really single. This spread says he has his eyes elsewhere, let the whole concept and idea of him die, and you’ll see he had smth to hide. Boo! Now let’s see how it plays out…spill the beans, Marco.”

I left it at that and decided to follow the advice of Death – let it go, close it off, leave it behind. It wasn’t easy to follow this advice because my initial impulse was to respond to his jokey message and gloss over it and explain why I had asked. Instead, I stayed silent as a tomb. Death doesn’t utter a word, not even an emoji. Total crickets. 

It was only a matter of hours before I had my answer!

He later spontaneously sent a message admitting that yes, he has a girlfriend; but, and I quote: “she lives abroad and I hardly ever see her.”

Ah, tarot. How I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Let’s now look specifically at two of the cards that, in my own experience, have shown up repeatedly in specific real-life situations.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Three of Wands has come up repeatedly in my readings for clients in situations where there are long-distance relationships and in situations where one of the partners is contemplating a move overseas (or in any case across water or a long enough distance to require relocation) in order to be with the other. I didn’t touch on the overseas part in my own brief written analysis of this reading (because I already knew that part in my head), but I did make sure to note what the figure is doing on the card: he has his back to me. Thus, what I needed to know was that he certainly didn’t have his eyes on me, but rather elsewhere, across the water. In fact, I came to find out that his girlfriend lives in Spain.

Secondly, the Seven of Swords is a card that I’ve seen repeatedly for clients when there is a situation of cheating or getting away with (or attempting to get away with) something secretly. I generally dislike assigning specific keywords and situations to a card, since it’s better to be fluid enough to interpret every card uniquely for each unique reading. However, the Seven of Swords is rather difficult for me to extricate from the context of cheating when it shows up in a relationship reading, especially as it regards trust issues or secrets.

If you’re learning how to read the cards, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping a journal. I’ve been reading now for nearly 20 years and as you can see, I still physically jot down notes with an actual pen on an actual piece of paper every single time I do a reading for myself. Documenting your readings has immense value for your learning, especially further on in the future when you have real-world findings, information and results of the situation that you can bring to bear on your initial interpretations.

As you grow in experience, you’ll begin to amass a substantial collection of actual situations that you can link back to particular cards, and this becomes a really important toolkit you can draw upon if and when you decide to start reading for others.

Your thoughts?

If you want to experience the power of a tarot reading for yourself, please visit me over at Sparrow Tarot ( to learn how the cards can serve as a road map to help you navigate your life’s journey.

Life as an Escape Artist


There’s something strangely appealing about an escape artist. Even though the premise remains the same for more than 100 years – a guy puts himself in a situation from which escape seems impossible, only to get out a few moments later – we still get carried away with this type of presentation. Maybe it’s because we’re trying to figure out how will the escape artist manage to escape its condition. Or maybe it’s the “will he make it in time?” question. We know he will, as he obviously would not present an act that wasn’t properly rehearsed. But even so, there’s always this little thought in the back of our heads asking “What if he doesn’t do it?”

That’s the thrill of it… To see someone against impossible odds and actually succeed. That’s also the thrill to many of our stories. Where the “hero” is faced with an impossible task. Something that only he can do, even if, at first glance, it does seem impossible. A position that, for better or for worse, he cannot simply not choose to do it. Whether he likes it or not.

This type of situation can be represented by a tarot card. It’s called The Hanged Man and it speaks about being put in a position where you know you have to do something regardless of anything else you might want or wish or desire. It even has the same type of imagery. When it appears in a reading, it normally means something like “Sacrifice”; “Changing views/perspectives/opinions”; “Waiting”; “Loss”; “Redemption”; “Saved by the bell”…

There is, however, an aspect of the card which is seldom addressed. The part of the hero. I recently came over this as I was reading Grant Morrison’s “Seven Soldiers of Victory”, a two-volume set about seven heroes, who must combine their efforts in order to save the world, even though they can’t be together (you can find them here and here). In it there’s one sequence where one of the seven heroes, Zatanna, questions herself about what should a hero do:

Zatanna #4, by Grant Morrison and Ryan Sook. Part of The Seven Soldiers of Victory collection.

So, the typical “Hangman” situation, but seen by the eyes of a hero. And… what would the hero do?? Sure enough, he/she would go straight ahead and walk into hell if need be in order to get it done. He/she would confront whatever it is that needed to be confronted, whatever the personal cost would be.
Just like in real life, when faced with The Hagman, we have to confront whatever ails us and be done with it. And here’s the interesting part: In the Hangman card, we’re chained. Chained by our dreams; our misconceptions; our prejudices. Chained to people and things we don’t want to loose. Chained to points of view that no longer favor us. And it is the dream of every person who sees itself in that situation to escape it. To find a solution where he/she can still keep all of hir luggage and still get out of hir predicament. By dealing with these types of situations, and while we’re not ready to let go of that excessive luggage, where testing the waters to see what we can expect. We’re trying some solutions. And we’re developing ourselves as a person. We’re expanding our limits. We’re putting ourselves to the test. When we reach a “Hangman” situation, we’re also putting ourselves against impossible odds and trying to figure out a way to beat them. In our own private little story, we’re actually taking the role of the hero.

Of course, when facing the impossible we have to adapt. To develop new skills in order to effectively handle the problem we have in front of us. As Steve Englehart has put in his novel “The Point Man”,

“in order to become someone else, you first have to be somebody else.”

As every tarot reader knows, we resolve the Hangman card by breaking the bonds. By dealing with the subject in matter in a way that allows us to move on. But do we really deal with the issue at hand, or do we just find an escape route that allows us to keep the same luggage and sort of “move on”? Or even, something in between?

Life is an expert at building us traps. And we’re also experts at falling into them. An escape artist knows what to do and gets it done. There’s no harm there. He just moved from trap to trap, from one impossible situation to another and makes his living. A hero, does deal with the situation at hand, many times if necessary, and always with some personal cost. But, as everyone knows, in either situation, there’s always a door open and sometime in the future, this same situation can and will rise again.

As if there isn’t a definite solution to the problem at hand.

In real life, we’re always training ourselves to dodge bullets. To deal with whatever situation life throws at us and to leave it behind as soon as possible. We are dealing with it. But it can also be seen as escaping its dangers. Its consequences. Is it, then, unexpected that the next card turns out (in traditional decks) to feature someone on a horse riding (escaping?) in a direction that suggests movement from the past to the future (left to right)?

The Death card is supposed to be all about “personal or voluntary transformation”. Of  “killing a part of yourself, so that you can create something new”. It’s about resolution and leaving behind what’s supposed to stay behind, so that the new can come in. New situations. New challenges. New developments and, ultimately, new escapes.